The Crest Academies (formerly John Kelly schools) to be excluded from school building cuts
The Liberal Democrat and Conservative government has relented on its decision to suspend funding from building the Crest Academies (formerly the John Kelly schools) in Dollis Hill. The government had previously announced that it would cease all funding under the Building Schools for the Future programme, which was to cover the re-building and expansion of Copland Community School, Cardinal Hinsley Catholic College, Queen’s Park Community School and Alperton Community School. At the time Brent Council was also informed that the money for the Crest Academies was also at risk.
The decision to allocate capital funding for the project follows lobbying by Cllr Ann John, Labour Leader of Brent Council. Councillor John accompanied by Ms Beverley Bell, Head Teacher of Crest Academy (Girls) and the Council’s Education Director, Mr John Christie met with Michael Gove on 22 July. The delegation made the point that the plans for re-building were already well advanced, large sums of public money had already been spent and to withdraw funding now would be a false economy as well as putting the life chances of young people at risk.
Councillor Ann M John, OBE, Labour Leader of Brent Council, welcomed the news but warned that the withdrawal of capital funds to other schools will still cause huge problems. Cllr John said:
“I am delighted for the Crest Academies but it really would have been madness to withdraw funding when the plans are so far advanced. However, the withdrawal of funding to other schools in Brent still leaves us facing a crisis in school places and it will inevitably lead to overcrowding and poor conditions, which will affect the life chances of our young people for generations to come.”
At the Council meeting in September the Liberal Democrats and Tories who run Brent Council rejected a Labour motion to pursue the compulsory purchase of land adjoining the new Crest Academies (formerly John Kelly schools) to ensure outdoor sports facilities. They rejected the motion on the basis that further delay would jeopardise government funding. The Council’s failure to pursue the purchase of the land will also prolong the construction period from 18 months to four years and the £5 million earmarked for the purchase will be wasted on temporary accommodation.
It was apparent at the September meeting that the Lib Dems and Tories had made no attempt to meet with Government ministers to ascertain whether Government funding would in fact be at risk if the compulsory purchase was pursued. Accordingly, Brent South Labour MP, Dawn Butler arranged a meeting with Schools Minister Vernon Coaker on 21 October 2009 and that meeting was also attended by local Labour Councillors Ralph Fox and Lena Ahmed who both represent Dollis Hill ward and by Labour’s Education spokesperson, Cllr Mary Arnold.
Mr Coaker has now written to Dawn Butler to confirm that full government funding would still be available should the Council revisit its decision on the CPO (compulsory purchase order). If you would like to see a copy of Vernon Coaker’s letter, email me on email@example.com.
The Leader of Brent Council’s Labour Opposition, Cllr Ann M John, OBE, thanked Dawn Butler for brokering the meeting with Mr Coaker and thanked her colleagues for attending.
Cllr John welcomed the Government’s decision and said:
“The Minister is effectively asking the Council to look at this again and pursue Labour’s original plan for first rate academies with first rate facilities, including outdoor sports facilities to be built with the minimum of disruption to the existing school community. The Lib Dems and Tories now have no excuse for building the new schools without acquiring the adjacent land”.
The John Kelly Schools on Crest Road opened up last week as a new Crest Academy. Pupils started school following the summer break in their new purple themed uniforms entering what promises to be a new era for the school. However, the opening at the same time has uncovered scandalous failings of the Lib Dem led Brent administration.
In 2005, when Labour had control of the Council, £5 million was put aside specifically for the John Kelly School(s) to purchase extra land adjacent to the building for the purpose of rebuilding the school. The agreement was also in place to purchase the much needed land through what is called a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO). However, the Lib Dems have failed to act on this and follow through the CPO process meaning that the site will now have to be built on the existing inadequate site.
If the extra land was purchased, the new school would be built within two years with creation of a second accessable entrance to the school. Under the Liberal Democrat plans, construction will now take four years to complete. Children of the school will now have to continue to carry on with inadequate recreation, sports and play areas. For sports lessons and sports days, the children will have to travel off-site to use external facilities, costing the school extra money.
At a Council meeting this week, the Labour group this week tried its luck again and according to Kensal Green Councillor James Powney:
Labour made another attempt to get Brent’s Liberal Democrats and Tories to return to their previous policy of a full expansion of the Crest Academies (formerly John Kelly Schools). After a chaotic debate, the Tories and Liberal Democrats voted down our motion to buy more land so that it had greater sports facilities (which Ofsted has identified as the schools’ Achilles heel).
Source: James Powney
The whole saga is just another example of why Brent cannot afford to have the Lib Dems in charge any longer. Dawn Butler has opened up a petition on the BrentLabour website. To support the campaign, visit the following link:
PROTECT OUR CHILDREN’S FUTURE Petition